Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Variable harvest prompts calls for better volatility measures

November 1, 2018 by  
Filed under Crops

Extreme weather and unpredictable commodity prices have triggered renewed calls for the government to help the arable sector become more resilient.

It follows the NFU’s annual harvest survey which confirmed mixed results across a range of combinable crops. The varied results of this year’s harvest demonstrated the need for measures to be put in place to better manage volatility, said the union.

Wheat yields fell to their lowest since 2013, averaging just 7.7t/ha – well below the five year average of 8.2t/ha. Spring barley saw a 10% yield reduction, reaching its lowest level since 2012 although oilseed rape yields were in line with the five year average.

NFU combinable crops board chairman Tom Bradshaw said: “Extreme weather events of this year have caused crop yields to become increasingly unpredictable. Despite our favourable climate and soil conditions, farmers have experienced an incredible amount of variation in this year’s harvest.”

World markets

With Brexit, the volatility of world commodity markets and the weather adding further uncertainty, farmers would be turning to the government for ways to build financial resilience into their businesses as farm payments are phased out over the next few years.

Mr Bradshaw added: “It is essential that a new domestic agriculture policy is supportive of resilience in the face of short-term localised shocks while driving long-term competitiveness.”

Provisional estimates from Defra paint a similar picture. They suggest the UK wheat harvest amounted to just 14.1m tonnes this year – a decrease of 5.1% on 2017. Again, this is below the five-year average of 14.8m tonnes for 2013-2017.

The provisional barley production figure for the UK also fell, decreasing by 7.9% to 6.6m tonnes in 2018, according to Defra. It too was below the five-year average of 7.0m tonnes for 2013-2017.

‘Important contributor’

The provisional oilseed rape harvest fell 5.3% to 2.1m tonnes, said Defra. The planted area increased by 6.8%, but yields fell 11.4% to 3.4t/ha from 3.9t/ha in 2017 – similar to the five-year average.

The NFU says cereals remain an important contributor to the nation’s economy and food supply. Each year, growers provide 5m tonnes of flour; barley and malt to make 985m pints of beer; enough grain for 11m tonnes of animal feed; and the equivalent of 11m loaves of bread every day.

Final UK harvest results are expected to be published by Defra next month.

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